Thu, May 23

Cottonwood moves to follow county lead on cellphone distracted driving ordinance

Cottonwood Police Chief Steve Gesell

Cottonwood Police Chief Steve Gesell

COTTONWOOD – As the state still struggles with passing a statewide ban on cellphone distracted driving, Cottonwood is following Yavapai County’s lead.

The city ordinance updates Cottonwood’s existing code to mirror the one adopted by Yavapai County in October. Right now, the county’s ordinance only encompasses unincorporated areas. Council had its first reading Tuesday during a regular meeting.

The city’s proposed ordinance states: “No person shall, except as otherwise provided in this section, use a mobile communication device while operating a motor vehicle upon a street or highway, unless that device is specifically designed or configured to allow hands-free use and is used in that manner while operating a motor vehicle. A law enforcement officer may stop a motor vehicle or motor driven cycle if the officer has reasonable suspicion to believe a violation of this Section is occurring.”

The ordinance carries a civil traffic violation.

“It’s certainly an opportunity for education whenever somebody is either pulled over for something else or seen doing this or for this,” said Cottonwood City Attorney Steve Horton.

“Hands-free” ordinances have also been adopted in Prescott, Prescott Valley and Chino Valley. Sedona adopted a ban on cell phone use while driving in 2014. Jerome Town Council had the first reading of a distracted driving ordinance last week.

Right now, Arizona is one of only three states that doesn’t have a general state-wide statute addressing distracted driving. The current legislation is narrowly tailored to only apply to school bus drivers and teenagers.

Tuesday, Cottonwood Police Chief Steve Gesell said the ordinance is meant to reduce deaths, injuries and property damage related to distracted driving.

Cottonwood already has an existing ordinance concerning the use of mobile phones while driving but the ordinance is in “dire need of revision.” Gesell said.

“Some of the verbiage is antiquated and questionably enforceable,” he said.

Vice Mayor Kyla Allen agreed with the need for the ordinance.

“I think everyone in this room has done it at least once,” she said. “With the technology available today … the technology is not outrageously expensive as it was even two years ago to have a hands-free device.”

Council Member Michael Mathews called it a “no brainer.”

“We all know also that an ordinance isn’t going to stop anyone from doing anything,” he said. “The one thing I would ask you to do – enforce it. Start writing tickets. It’s a small town, word will get out.”